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Stotting is when a quadruped jumps into the air, lifting all four feet off the ground simultaneously.

Stotting (also pronking or pronging) is a gait of quadrupeds, particularly gazelles (e.g. Thomson's Gazelles), involving jumping high into the air by lifting all four feet off the ground simultaneously. This may occur during pursuit by a predator. It might also occur during play. This reduces the lead distance and speed of the pursued animal, and thus makes it easier for the predator to catch. This apparently maladaptive behavior may signal to the predator or potential mates its comparative fitness as a form of boasting or taunting, and so therefore may be an evolutionarily selected behavior or antipredator adaptation. Richard Dawkins, in his book The Selfish Gene, refers to stotting and explains it as the animal's attempt at advertising its health. Since mammalian predators tend to hunt old or unhealthy animals, stotting informs the predator that the animal is actually very healthy and strong and the predator might do well to try to hunt the other animals in the herd. Previously, some other theorists considered this behavior as an act of altruism, thinking the animal tried to draw the predator's attention to itself and away from the herd. Evidence supports the hypothesis of advertising unprofitability - for example cheetahs abandon more hunts when the gazelle stots, and in the event they do give chase, they are far less likely to make a kill.[1] This is offered by adherents of the handicap principle as a prime example.

Contents

Etymology

Stot is a common word in Scots, meaning to bounce (or to walk with a bounce)[2]. Uses in this case include stotting a ball off a wall or rain stotting off a pavement. Pronking comes from the Afrikaans word "pronk", to show off, strut or prance. [3]

In horses

When startled, horses can stot in the manner of cats. However, horses also stot in apparent pleasure or as a way to release excess energy. This is seen often in polo ponies as they leave the playing field, in trained rodeo horses before and after timed speed events, as well as in horses who are loose in a field, particularly young horses.

a lamb stotting (left)

In other animals

Both mule deer and pronghorn stot,[4] as do several other species native to North America, but among these the mule deer's stotting gait is distinctive for its exceptionally "stiff-legged" quality.[4]

In domesticated livestock such as sheep, stotting is typically performed only by young animals.[5]

See also

References

  • FitzGibbon, C. D., and Fanshawe, J. H., (1988), Stotting in Thomson's gazelles: an honest signal of condition. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Volume 23, Number 2 / August, pages 69–74.
  1. ^ Caro, T. M. (1986) The functions of stotting in Thomson's gazelles: Some tests of the predictions. Animal Behaviour 34:663-684.
  2. ^ Definition of stot
  3. ^ Definition of pronking
  4. ^ a b Roosevelt, Theodore (1905) Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter, C. Scribner's Sons, 339 pages.
  5. ^ Simmons, Paula; Carol Ekarius (2001). Storey's Guide to Raising Sheep. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing LLC. ISBN 978-1-58017-262-2.  

External links

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